Can I Take A Break From Breastfeeding?
Short answer, yes!! There are many paths to choose from when deciding on the best way to feed your baby. Often I see moms, and I experienced this myself, feeling like there is only one way to feed a baby and one way that looks like successful breastfeeding. This could not be farther from the truth and can be a damaging way to view feeding choices. Whether you exclusively breastfeed, supplement, use a nipple shield, combo feed with formula and breastmilk, choose to wean before 12 months, or a million other variations, your feeding choices are valid! Let’s unpack when it may be a good time to take a break and how to navigate your choices.
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Does this sound like you?
You have hit a wall. Just the thoughts of latching your beautiful new baby have you recoiling. You are beyond tired and can't see a way out. You have thought of throwing in the towel completely, but want to keep giving it a go. You just don't know HOW. Is there a way to give yourself the mental break you need without deciding to wean all together? Yes! Here is where a 24-hour nursing break may be a part of your next right step.
What is a 24-hour nursing break?
For 24 hours, instead of nursing your baby at the breast, you pump and bottle feed for each feeding, click over for my guide to introducing a bottle, here.
- Prior to choosing this option, you want to make sure you are using the correct flange sizes. In order to pump more comfortably, prevent further nipple damage and adequately drain your breasts, you need to have the correct size flange for you. Click here for a free, downloadable nipple measurement tool. We also have one inside boob school!
- Aim for 8-10 pumps per 24-hour period, with 2-3 hour intervals between pumps. You can plan for one 4-5 hour sleep chunk overnight. You do not need to have the exact feeding schedule as your baby; it is more about the total ounces removed for the entire 24 hours.
- Using a pumping bra can help make pumping easier and allow you to be hands-free.
- My favorite pump is the pumpables genie advanced. Pair it with the idaho jones milk cups for the ultimate hack. Check out my gal @bemybreastfriend for a ton of hacks and pumping know-how.
- You can try this fridge hack to save yourself time cleaning pump parts.
- You can store pump parts in the refrigerator in between pump sessions instead of cleaning and sterilizing them between each session.
- Consider having two sets of pump parts on hand.
- Options for storing milk: you can pull your milk in one container, I love the ceres chill, or you can simply fill up the next bottle your baby will need and keep it in the refrigerator.
- Breastmilk can be kept in the refrigerator for 4 days.
- Get a partner or other caregivers in on feeding times and focus on pumping when you need to and resting otherwise.
But, if I want to breastfeed my baby, why would I take a break?
This can seem counterintuitive, but Mama, trust me on this one. 24 hours can give you the physical and mental space, as well as, time for your body to heal.
It is one step and one day. Taking a break can actually lead to longer breastfeeding journeys!
In Boob School, we have an entire module on incorporating mindfulness into your breastfeeding journey. It matters! You want to give your body, mind, and your nips the space and time they may need to heal and be ready to try again with breastfeeding.
Here's your reminder that breastfeeding is not an all-or-nothing sum game. Your breastfeeding journey is unique and can look many different ways. Get support today with a consultation with one of our team members, click here. You can also find a local IBCLC here.
How can I work toward breastfeeding when I am taking a latching break?
Use this time to focus on connecting with your baby. Here are some of my favorite ways of connecting and co-regulating with your baby.
- Skin to skin: this is the perfect reset whenever you are hitting stress or having difficulty in your feeding journey. Skin-to-skin is known to reduce stress hormones in both mom and baby. Undress the baby down to their diaper and take off everything from the waist up off, even your bra. Lay baby chest to chest with you and enjoy! Aim for one infant full sleep cycle a day, (but more is better.)
- Babywearing and skin-to-skin: I know skin-to-skin can be tricky to do, especially if you are caring for an older child. Placing your baby in a wrap carrier like baby K’tan or Solly baby wrap can keep them skin-to-skin and close to you, but allow you to get things done.
- Co-bathing: I absolutely love co-bathing. If you have been cleared to take a bath, co-bathing is one of the most calming and centering activities you can do with your baby.
When weaning is the next right step for you
Deciding to stop breastfeeding is a decision full of emotion and for many mothers, leaves them feeling like a failure. I am no stranger to feeling like my body has failed me. Although my exact situation is different I would like to share things I have learned along the way that I hope will let you find some peace.
At 16 years old I was diagnosed with cancer to say it was hell is a vast understatement. I suffered through chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant, and just about every side effect you can imagine.
I am now 38 *eek* and I have lived all of my adult life in a body with chronic illness. I am lucky that I am able to function and do the work I love and be there for my people. But I have spent so many days wondering just how to love this imperfect body. This body lets me down. That prevents me from doing all the things I want. That worries me. That burdens my family and children. So I know a thing or two about feeling like your body has failed you.
So if I can offer you some advice it is this
Feel it. Sometimes staying with emotion and naming it is the bravest thing we can do. So let yourself feel your sorrow. Notice where the sensation resides in your body. Sit with it. Many people are going to tell you that you really shouldn’t be sad or angry about quitting breastfeeding. But other people don’t dictate how we feel and resisting our emotions does not bring us any closer to resolving them.
There is no escape from being human. Our bodies are miraculous, complicated, fragile things. What your body does or doesn’t do does not equal your worth. We can spend a lifetime fighting against this and wishing our vulnerability away or we can walk alongside it. Let me tell you, friends, the latter is much less heavy.
There are a million ways to mother our babies that have nothing to do with making milk. You will be the one sleeping on their floor when they have the flu. You will be the one wiping tears away from their first big breakup. You will be the one they call for in the middle of the night. You will be the one that talks them through middle school friendships. You will be the one rocking them to sleep one last time.
Yes, breastfeeding is one way we mother our babies but it is no more worthy than any of these others. So today, maybe just for a moment, imagine how this experience will allow you to teach your child how to love their own fragile human body. And how our worth is not made from how productive our bodies are but how we use them to love.
Cheering you on, always!!
Boob School Founder and CEO
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